How to Cook Sweet Potatoes

5 from 1 vote

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Everything you need to know about cooking with sweet potatoes, including how to make the perfect baked sweet potato.

Several halved sweet potatoes on a table.

Sweet potatoes are an incredibly popular root vegetable, and for good reason — these orange-colored tubers are genuinely sweeter than their white or pale yellow cousins. Baked on their own, they are a treat, and when added to recipes, they provide an earthy, subtle sweetness to all kinds of dishes. From Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries with a side of Chipotle Mayo to Sweet Potato Casserole (with or without marshmallows), sweet potatoes turn into delicious sides.

Halved sweet potatoes on a yellow table.

What Are Sweet Potatoes?

Sweet potatoes are large, starchy, sweet-tasting root vegetables. They are a member of the tuber family and grow underground, with their leaves and shoots sometimes eaten as greens. As their name indicates, sweet potatoes are, in fact, sweeter than regular potatoes — sometimes just a bit, sometimes very pronounced. Different varieties have different levels of sweetness.

What Do Sweet Potatoes Look Like? 

Sweet potatoes are often long and tapered, though they can also be fat. While we are most familiar with sweet potatoes that have a copper-brown skin color and bright orange flesh, sweet potatoes can actually come in a variety of colored skin and flesh tones. More specialty sweet potatoes might be yellow, red, purple, or white on the outside and white or purple on the inside.

You can also find baby sweet potatoes, which are literally just smaller versions of the larger potato. They are fun for roasting whole and serving split down the middle with butter. These mini versions may make more sense as a side dish than a large roasted sweet potato.

How to Cook Sweet Potatoes: Everything you need to know to choose, store, and cook sweet potatoes!

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Are yams and sweet potatoes the same thing?

While the names are sometimes used interchangeably, there are differences between a sweet potato and a yam. Yams are actually from a different species, and they are generally larger, starchier, and drier than sweet potatoes. They also are often not as sweet. With that said, they can often be used interchangeably in recipes.

When are sweet potatoes in season?

Sweet potatoes are available year-round, but their peak season falls between October through December.

Are sweet potatoes good for you?

Luckily for us all, they’re seriously nutritious. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta carotene, which converts to Vitamin A in your body and is critical to a healthy immune system, vision, and gut health. They also contain high levels of Vitamin C and potassium, with lesser quantities of fiber and other antioxidants, which may help protect against certain cancers (via Healthline).

Several varieties of baby sweet potatoes on a bright blue surface.

What Do Sweet Potatoes Taste Like?

Their name advertises the flavor! Simply put, sweet potatoes have a unique combination of special starches and sugars, and as they cook, enzymes break down the starches into simpler and sweeter sugars. All this creates a distinctly sweet flavor. The flesh of sweet potatoes tends also to be very creamy and rich.

Sweet Potato Substitutes

Sweet potatoes can really be used in all the ways you would think to use any of their sister potatoes, so think about subbing them into your favorite potato recipes for a change of pace.

Woman using a fork to mash the inside of a baked sweet potato.
Baked Sweet Potato

Where to Find and How to Choose Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are readily available and carried in most grocery stores year-round, located right near the other potatoes and onions in the produce section.

The best sweet potatoes are the small to medium ones, which are sweet and creamy. Larger ones tend to be starchier. They should be firm and free of bruises or breaks, and their skin should be smooth. Go for the ones with darker skins, as these are richer in the antioxidant beta-carotene.

One sweet potato cut in half.

How to Prepare and Cook With Sweet Potatoes

In general, you should always wash potatoes before cooking with them. (Do not wash potatoes before storing them, as moisture tends to make them spoil quicker.) 

After that, the preparation all depends on how you intend to use your taters. Keep the skin on, or peel the skin off, depending on preference or the recipe. Like other potatoes, sweet potatoes can be sliced, diced, julienned, cubed, cooked in chunks or whole.

Slices of sweet potato on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Baking and roasting are probably the best ways to cook sweet potatoes. Whole baked or roasted sweet potatoes need no more prep than piercing them through a few times with a skewer or fork and baking them like you would an all-purpose potato.

But beyond baking them whole, sweet potatoes can be cut up and cooked in a lot of ways, such as baking, roasting, sautéing, steaming, boiling, or frying. Cooked potatoes can also be pureed or mashed and even turned into soup.

Woman peeling baked sweet potato.

Cubed or wedged potatoes are amazing when seasoned and roasted alongside other vegetables. Julienned fried or baked sweet potatoes are fantastic alternatives to regular French fries. Boiling and mashing produce sweet potato mashed potatoes with loads of flavor and depth. You can also blend up a combo of mashed russet and sweet potatoes for a nice best-of-both-worlds situation.

Woman seasoning Garlic-Parmesan Sweet Potatoes on a baking sheet.
Garlic-Parmesan Sweet Potatoes

Use thick slices as a base for all kinds of toppings or use thin slices in a sweet potato gratin. And do not forget the American classic Sweet Potato Pie!

How to Store Sweet Potatoes

For best results, store raw sweet potatoes in a cool, dry place. Be sure to avoid any direct sunlight, or you’ll soon see some serious sprouts coming out of your sweet potatoes! Don’t wash them before storing, but brush off any big clumps of dirt. Like this, they can last for at least a month. Sweet potatoes tend to mold faster if washed before being stored. Also, don’t refrigerate them which also can escalate spoilage.

Once cut, they can be stored in an airtight container for a few days before cooking with them, or they can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 12 months. 

Several halved sweet potatoes on a chartreuse table.

12 Sweet Potato Recipes

Here are some recipes that use sweet potatoes.

Smashed Garlic Butter Sweet Potatoes with Feta
5 from 2 votes

Smashed Garlic Butter Sweet Potatoes with Feta

Tender with crispy edges, and a pop of salty cheese and fresh parsley, these savory sweet potatoes are an easy but festive side dish.
View Recipe

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes
4.86 from 7 votes

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

If you like scalloped potatoes (and who doesn't?) then give this sweet potato version a try!
View Recipe

Serving bowl of Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes with spoon.
5 from 4 votes

Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Roasted garlic adds a gentle smoky garlic flavor to creamy mashed sweet potatoes.
View Recipe

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries / Carrie Crow / Katie Workman /
5 from 2 votes

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

If you are the kind of person who is elated to see sweet potato fries on a menu, then you'll be truly happy to know how easy they are to make at home (plus, oven-baked, so tilting into healthy food!).
View Recipe

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread
5 from 4 votes

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

Soft and comforting, this puffy sweet potato casserole is perfect for holiday meals.
View Recipe

Bulgur Wheat, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Gratin
5 from 5 votes

Bulgur Wheat, Sweet Potato, and Black Bean Casserole

Think of this colorful, layered vegetarian dish when you need a side dish that can also anchor the plate as the main course.
View Recipe

Slice of sweet potato pie on dark plate with whipped cream
5 from 4 votes

Sweet Potato Pie with Whipped Cream

Light and creamy, this pretty pie makes a great change of pace from pumpkin pie.
View Recipe

Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
5 from 2 votes

Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows

There are many of us who think this is a non-negotiable part of the Thanksgiving table.
View Recipe

Wild Rice and Sweet Potato Salad
5 from 2 votes

Wild Rice and Sweet Potato Salad

Earthy sweet potatoes are a perfect partner for earthy wild rice. A great autumnal side dish, and very portable.
View Recipe

Yellow dish of Sweet Potato Casserole.
5 from 2 votes

Sweet Potato Casserole

This warm-spiced sweet potato casserole has a fabulous streusel topping. Perfect for Thanksgiving.
View Recipe
Red baking dish of Candied Sweet Potatoes.
5 from 1 vote

Candied Sweet Potatoes

For those of us who like our sweet potatoes sweet! Is this a side dish? A dessert? Probably somewhere in the middle.
View Recipe
Simple Butter Roasted Sweet Potatoes
5 from 5 votes

Simple Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Side dishes don't get easier than this one – a perfect addition to a holiday menu (this is the dish you won't have to think about!).
View Recipe

Baked Sweet Potatoes

The perfect baked sweet potato is a wonderful cold weather side, and while it takes an hour in the oven, there is basically no hands-on time. If you want to bake the sweet potatoes and get a super crispy skin, you can rub the sweet potatoes with olive oil before baking. If you rubbed the potatoes with olive oil, place a baking sheet on the rack below the potatoes to catch any drips.

Sweet potatoes, salt, and oil on marble table.

Season the skin and the inside with salt after baking, regardless of what other toppings or fillings you pick. You can also bake smaller sweet potatoes; just reduce the cooking time.

5 from 1 vote

How to Bake Sweet Potatoes

Everything you need to know about cooking with sweet potatoes, including how to make the perfect baked sweet potato.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 2 People
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  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • Olive oil (optional)
  • Butter, sour cream, salt (optional; to serve)


  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Scrub the sweet potatoes, dry them, and use a small sharp knife to remove any dark brown or greenish spots, or “eyes.” Use a fork, a skewer, or a thin, sharp knife to poke several holes all around the potatoes. Brush the potatoes with olive oil if you're looking for an extra crispy skin.
  • Bake the potatoes directly on the oven rack for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, until a thin, sharp knife slides easily into the potato. If you rubbed the potatoes with olive oil, place a baking sheet on the rack below the potatoes to catch any drips.
  • Let it cool for a couple of minutes, then take a knife and slit the potato right down the middle. Give it a squeeze, spread it open, and use a fork to loosen up the insides a bit.
  • Top as you like — with butter, sour cream, salt — or go for something more adventurous!


  • Season the skin and the inside with salt after baking, regardless of what other toppings or fillings you pick.
  • If you rubbed the potatoes with olive oil, place a baking sheet on the rack below the potatoes to catch any drips.


Calories: 389kcal, Carbohydrates: 91g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 0.2g, Saturated Fat: 0.1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g, Sodium: 249mg, Potassium: 1523mg, Fiber: 14g, Sugar: 19g, Vitamin A: 64125IU, Vitamin C: 11mg, Calcium: 136mg, Iron: 3mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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